In the era of #MeToo, we are uncovering more and more stories about sexual assault every day. It seems that we cannot go even one day without hearing about someone famous, trusted, and “good” doing something really, really terrible. And the discourse is, of course– as all discourse is– toxic. We exist in a conversation about justice in an unjust world. We try to talk about accountability when we still refuse to acknowledge that instances of sexual assault are higher in LGBTQ+ communities, and compounds for multi-marginalized people. We create and uphold an inequitable system, and then wonder why people just can’t seem to stop raping other people. Some call it society. Some call it biology. Some name it lust, power, greed, entitlement, or toxic masculinity.
I call it a tool of oppression.
Rape and sexual assault have been used for centuries by imperialist and capitalist forces to subdue those they perceive to be inferior.
When the Portuguese and the Spaniards “discovered” new the “new land” of South America, they sent their conquistadors. These men, single, young, and hungry for power, subjugated indigenous people, and in doing so, created a class system that is still distinct today.
Everyone knows the history of King Henry the 8th. He just murdered the women who no longer pleased him (some of whom were children)– but God forbid someone ever said no to being his lover.
Enlightenment thinkers never thought of women when they stated so confidently, that every man must have independent control over their own bodies, much less over women of color or LGBTQ+. Many Enlightenment thinkers, such as Immanuel Kant, saw women as the property of men, arguing that women must obey their male master. This rhetoric is prevalent in toxic masculine communities today.
Conquistadors often raped indigenous women and their African slaves– to the point where they populated their cities with their children.
But it’s not just from years ago. This is happening now. And we are ignoring it. Rape has historically been used to oppress entire populations of people. In the Zapatista territories of Chiapas, Mexico, the Mexican military has historically used rape as a way of perpetuating imperialist oppression.
I could go on and on with the list of examples. But we have to ask why. This article from the Washington Post delves into the several reasons that sexual assault acts as one of the sickest, most effective tools of imperialists to continue to satisfy their thirst for land and resources. It is tied into the format of their conquests. Imperialists often look for any way in which they can take over land– except, land is not just land. It’s made up of people, so imperialists need to take control of the people.
There is no consent where power dynamics are concerned. When you cannot say no, you are sexually assaulted. And it is a part of a grand scheme of control and power, and there is no liberation until all people are liberated, from all shackles.
So, we need to remember this in the era of #MeToo. We have to remember that is isn’t just the individuals. It is all of us.